Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stolen many lives when the ship is sinking

Many of us waking up this morning to yet another gut-wrenching tragedy: the sinking of an inter-island ferry in the stormy seas off the marble-rich island of Romblon. The toll thus far: 700 feared dead. The culprit shipping firm is the the notorious Sulpicio Lines. Yes, this is the same company that owned the MV Dona Paz whose sinking in December 1987 is considered the world’s worst ferry disaster and the worst peace-time maritime disaster in history with the official death count at 1,565. Survivors claim the overloaded ferry carried up to 4,000. In October 24, 1988, the sinking of still another of Sulpicio Lines ferry, the MV Doña Marilyn reportedly killed over 600 people.

TV newscasts are blaring out the angry voice of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo berating the head of the coast guard for allowing the boat to leave port despite inclement weather. Mrs. Arroyo was calling from Fresno, California, the first stop of her “working” official visit to the United States. An inauspicious start for the trip. The now customary apology, incredible as it is, has come from Sulpicio Lines with the hollow promise to help the victims. No comfort. We know that to this day the damage claims of the earlier victims in the Dona Paz and MV Marilyn tragedies are locked in court. One wonders how and why a shipping company like this continues to operate given its woeful record of sinking ships, and stealng the lives of it hapless passengers. They are left only to light candles and wail.

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